WATCH | The Padaung tribe, commonly referred to as the Long Neck tribe, are the most famous of all the hill tribes in northern Thailand.
But contrary to their name, their necks aren't actually long. Watch to see why.
Tourists can see the Padaung tribe (refugees from Myanmar) at a place in Chiang Mai called Baan Tong Luang village. There are also several other hill tribe communities at the village, like the equally beautiful Hmong and Akha tribes.
The village is described as a place to meet with and learn about hill tribe communities. And while that's true, it's not the whole truth.
This village is staged for tourism.
It's more like a living museum, rather than a true village where hill tribes live. The tourism focus is evident immediately, by the trinkets for sale covering the tables.
The Padaung people know tourists are fascinated by their neck rings, so they are prepared for any and all impromptu photo shoots. As soon as I started asking them about their rings, they put a fake set of rings on me and posed for photos.
Some critics have major issues with this type of tourist attraction, calling these villages a "human zoo" that exploits a refugee community. Their response? Watch this video.
Staged or not, we came away from this place feeling that its value is in connecting people and cultures that otherwise would never meet.
I want to thank our guide, Anan Benjapanprai, who is also a hill tribe member.
If you are curious and want to visit the hill tribes, check out Thailand Hill Tribe Holidays, the group we used.
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